It is 1612. Robert Cecil, Chief Secretary to King James I, is dying. Now the threat from the Catholics has decayed, the Puritan majority are gaining an increasing stranglehold over English society. Parliament is starting to flex its muscles against the King whose court drifts shamelessly towards decadence and corruption. And the great period of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama has ended with the abrupt retreat from public life of William Shakespeare. Then Henry Gresham is asked by Cecil's protege, Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke, to trace a precious hand-written play manuscript that has gone missing, presumed stolen by a Cambridge bookseller. Gresham has no cause to realise that he is being used as live bait to draw out a murderous madman who is determined to destroy James I, a madman who was supposed to have died twenty years before, or that he is set to unravel the truth behind the authorship of one of the greatest plays the world has ever seen.